A Senegalese court has sentenced three fathers to jail after it found that the fathers had pushed their sons to migrate. They were found guilty of “endangering the lives of others.”
The three men, of whom the son of one died during the attempt to cross the Atlantic, were sentenced to two years in jail, with 23 months suspended. The Senegalese court passed its judgment on Tuesday, December 8.
According to the news agency Associated Press (AP), Mamadou Lamine Faye’s son, 14-year-old Doudou, died after setting off from the coastal town of Mbour in Senegal in mid-October. The court was told his father had paid the equivalent of about €380 to a smuggler to take his son to Spain.
Dreams of football
Faye hoped that his son would travel from Spain to Italy to train as a football player, AP reported. In court, Faye said that he hadn’t intended to endanger his son’s life but simply wanted a better future for him.
AP said that Faye was arrested in November shortly after news of his son’s death. The other two men’s sons survived but have now been returned to Senegal.
The numbers of migrants attempting to leave Senegal and make the risky crossing towards the Spanish Canary Island archipelago has risen dramatically this year.
The latest figures from the UN refugee agency UNHCR from December 6 show that 21,028 migrants arrived on the Canary Islands this year. That’s almost as many as the total sea arrivals (including those who crossed the Mediterranean from north Africa) in the whole of 2019.
More than 500 people have died attempting the crossing this year
The UN migration agency IOM estimates that more than 500 people have lost their lives attempting to reach the Canary Islands from Africa this year, and those figures could be much higher, as many departures would never have registered or been discovered.
The French news agency Agence France Presse (AFP) reports that “more than 1,500 migrants have been stopped from migrating along the Senegalese coast recently.” They add that “tens of others” have died in the same circumstances as Doudou. It is a figure which is denied by the Senegalese authorities.
AP reports that “many in Senegal hope the judge’s ruling may help deter parents from sending their children on the dangerous and long Atlantic route to Europe.” Testimonies of those that survive say crossings can often last at least five days, and some boats drift far off course, some even ending up in the Cape Verde islands.
‘My soul has already left my body’
InfoMigrants French reports that the news of the sentencing resonated strongly in Senegal, where reports about Doudou’s death caused a lot of “strong emotions.”
The Senegalese prosecutor also tried to get the three fathers sentenced for “complicity in smuggling offenses” but in the end those charges were dropped, the lawyer of the men Assane Dioma Ndiaye told AFP.
All three men are fishermen by trade, reports InfoMigrants French. They have been held in prison since their arrest in November. The New Humanitarian reports that in Mbour, “home to about a quarter of a million people, deaths and disappearances at sea are more than just numbers.”
More and more fisherman in Mbour, reports the New Humanitarian, are complaining about fish stocks being depleted because of foreign trawlers fishing in Senegalese waters. With dwindling fish and opportunities to earn a living from the sea, more and more fishermen are hoping that the Atlantic crossing will lead to more lucrative opportunities in Europe.
According to a local Senegalese newspaper, Doudou’s father said during the trial that all he wanted was “to open the doors of success [for his son.]” He said he had taken him to the local marabouts (traditional religious figures) so that they could pray for his son but “if I had known he would die, I would never have taken the risk.”
Faye continued that whilst people might see him in front of them in court, his “soul has already left my body.”